More Like AutoHATon, Am I Right?
Let’s ignore that tagline before I throw myself off a bridge.
So, Jamir—- holy Korean meatballs! Reuben’s Coraline review‘s gettin’ a lotta love! Ah, this is the first time I have been intimidated by my plebby compadre, I’m gonna cry a little bit in sheer disappoint in myself.
So, Jamiroquai, who we’ve covered before (here to be exact (gimme ya clicks)), are a British acid jazz/funk/dance group comprised of singer Jay Kay (w/ funny hats) and variety of other members, including drummer Derrick McKenzie, guitarist Rob Harris and bassist Paul Turner. While kinda big, well big enough to charge 90 DAMN POUNDS to see them, in the UK, they haven’t seen too much success elsewhere, aside from Virtual Insanity, from their 1996 album Travelling Without Moving, cleaning up at the MTV Video Music Awards. This is a phat shame, considering how diverse and danceable the rest of the band’s catalogue is. I’ve been a fan of them for a while now but I haven’t listened to them as much in recent years, missing out the band’s last two albums, 2005’s Dynamite and 2010’s Rock Dust Light Star, completely. Nonetheless, I thought I’d give this sucka a go, see if they still had it.
The album opens up on strong footing with Shake It On, a sci-fi tinged dance track, led by a catchy-as-the-plague melody and supported by some bass licks that would make any connoisseur of the four-stringed f*ckstick wiggle. Overall, the song is a really good opener for the album because it manages to loosen the listener up but allows the record to keep the best stuff for later on.
Oh wait, oh wait a damn minute. Looks like that ideology is straight out the stained glass window with the following track, titular lead single Automaton. Before we properly get into it, this song is the best on the album, take that as you must. While on first listen it seemed a bit jittery because it’s quite far off from the previous stuff the band has put out in the past, I’ve grown to love it. Fading in with a delicate synth hook, instantly establishing the electronic feel of that track, you don’t get an idea of how damn great the song is until it kicks in with these robotic melodies and offbeat kickdrums, led, of course, by Jay Kay’s distinguished vocals. There are also these odd machinery sound effects in the background which lend themselves greatly to the atmosphere of the track. Then, we get this dancy, slightly-funky, purely Jamiroquai chorus that also has an element of Daft Punk in there, which I’m not against in the slightest. It’s just a brilliantly fun track that captures the essence of the album perfectly.
After this, we’ve got the second single from the album, Cloud 9. As the video obviously recognises, there are many similarities in sound and content between this and previous Jamiroquai hit Cosmic Girl. In fact, you could go as far to say that this is the spiritual successor to the song. I won’t, but you could. While we have a much more familiar instrumental following the electronic tomfoolery of the previous song, and the chilled structure and atmosphere of the song is great, there are a few downfalls. Most notably is the lyrics themselves. Considering this is the man that brought us gems like “I must have died and gone to Heaven/’Cus it was quarter-past eleven”, I’m disappointed that the same guy would go for the overdid “cloud 9” gimmick and say, with a straight face, “You get your kicks playing stupid tricks”. Notify your school immediately.
This songwriting problem doesn’t seem to be fixed with the following song, Superfresh, with its hook “I want you to rock with me, baby/Rock me baby all night long”. However, again, this vapid lyricism is the only notable issue I have with the song as a whole, as it has some light, Nile Rodgers-esque guitars dancing in the background and a strong bassy backbone.
However, you don’t know what bass is until you’ve heard Hot Property, another highlight from the album. From the absolute get-go, we’ve got a straight up filthy bassline, reminiscent of the Stuart Zender days, and songs like High Times. To compliment this, the entire song takes a quite a sexay feel, with a seductive Russian-spoken bridge. And if there is one thing we know about the Russians, it’s that they’re sexay.
After this is Something About You. While I’m not gonna turn around and call this badboi “poetry”, it’s definitely much better, lyrically, than some of the other songs here. This can be due to Jay Kay’s brilliantly cool and in-control delivery, however, as we’ve still got references to Candy Crush. Instrumentally, we’ve got some of that light, funky guitar and a soulful bassline, progressing into some of the strings that are never too far away from Jamiroquai. In short, I can’t quite put my finger on the word to describe this song, but it’s got almost a summery feel to it, I think. I dunno. I’m a dumbass.
Now, I’m currently at 858 words and I’ve gone through half the album. I dunno what’s happened, but my bad. To be honest, though, one of the biggest problems with Automaton is that it blows its load in the first half of the album, throwing both singles in there and the majority of disco-funk, leaving us with a kinda stale second half. Alright, don’t get me wrong, songs like Summer Girl are lovely treats, but when you’ve got the two longest songs on the album in quick succession, you begin to lose interest. Then you got songs like flippin’ We Can Do It. I dunno what Jay Kay’s doing with his vocals, but he sounds like a UB-40 tribute. And it’s a shame because there is very little wrong with these songs if you take them out of context. They just don’t steal the show as much as the first half.
Overall, Jamiroquai’s first album in seven years, Automaton, is by no means the band’s best, but it ain’t nothing to turn your nose up at either. While songwriting issues and a lacklustre second half are definite weak points, Jay Kay and co. also take little bits from various genres to make something that’s just a good time, really.
Lots of hugs, kisses and lacerations